Mina Cheon . art . text . teach . review . cv

Half Moon Eyes, 2004, at Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, Maryland USA



Half Moon Eyes, 2004-5


Half Moon Eyes combines technology with politics while mimicking the voting booth and official ballot form recently used in the 2004 American presidential elections. With this artwork, the audience is invited to enter the voting booths to choose images from a myriad web of interactive animation, video, and sound on the touchscreen monitors. What one touches the screen however, the private endeavor is revealed in the public space with simultaneous double screen projection of the interaction suspended in the gallery space. The private interaction being shared by the public creates a sense of surveillance and paranoia. And rather than selecting presidents and parties to cast a vote, the piece calls for a space of reflection and contemplation regarding the issues surrounding voting in America, its geopolitical consequences, and about today’s relationship between Korea and America. Some video footage shows the camera being inspected, the tape being confiscated, and forbidden documentation at the border and in North Korea. Other clips range from animated North Korea female army dolls, North Korean depiction of sirens, South Korean reception of North Korean national cheerleaders, and above all, medical video documentation of South Korean’s most common eye surgery procedure blepharoplasties.


In Half Moon Eyes, Cheon is concerned with how the American media has simultaneously highlighted and isolated North Korea. Her artwork responds to recent American politics coining North Korea as a charter of “axis of evil,” and explores the triangular relationship between America, South Korea, and North Korea through a post-colonial perspective. Here, Cheon investigates newly articulated forms of Orientalism in cultural symbols and reproductive media that further the creation of Other within power structures of these nations. And along side America and North Korea, Cheon looks at how South Korea remains in the in-between terrain, participating in both ends, producing and consuming Otherness, exploiting and recreating post-colonial relations under the premise of Western media and late capitalism consumption culture.

The title, “half moon eyes,” refers to the common association of Asian women’s exotic eye shapes as small and delicate in comparison to Caucasian eyes. The piece also represents South Korean fetishism towards North Korean women’s beauty, especially of their supposed authentic ‘half moon eyes,’ that metaphorize South Korea’s desire for cultural purity. Similar to the way Western culture projects Asian women as different, South Koreans positions North Koreans (especially women) as being closer to nature, under the backdrop of their underdeveloped totalitarian society. At the same time, Cheon points out a cultural paradox of South Korea’s consumption culture and its industry of plastic surgery that allows many South Korean women to undergo double eye-lid surgery (blepharoplasties) to attain ideal Western-looking eyes. Such cultural phenomena proposes a complex mess of events: capitalism gone awry, consumption of Western glamour, projecting fictive realities of others, reproductive mimesis within cultures, and to desire or be desired as a way of establishing cultural and national identity.


Half Moon Eyes, 2005, Interactive Media Installation with Touchscreen Technology, at Insa Art Space of Arts Council, Seoul, Korea